Gluten-free Lunches on the Go

As the year winds down, packing lunches seems more and more daunting each day. Some of you may already have finished school for the year, but up here in the Boston area we still have a couple more weeks to go. Then (we hope!) the 2nd wind comes in to continue to pack lunches for camp or family picnics or the office.

Having a child with celiac disease, when we go on road trips or day trips, I often have to pack lunch because we cannot trust that we will find a place that has gluten-free meals. I like to use leftovers when I can and have lists of what my options are for lunches to help take the stress out of it. Here are some ideas for you:

Leftovers can be delicious! Make these Apricot Wings for dinner or appetizers then enjoy them for lunch the next day!

Quesadillas are the perfect on-the-go lunch. I use Rubbermaid Lunch Blocks containers most days for the kids school lunches and on road trips.

Leftover barbecue chicken makes a great lunch. The crackers pictured are one of my favorite gluten-free crackers – Van’s Lots of Everything Crackers.

Wegman’s has snack size yogurts, which fit perfectly into the kids’ lunch boxes. Throw in some lunch meat and Lance’s cheese crackers and the kids are happy πŸ™‚

My children often want a variety in their lunch. If I give them one thing, like leftover pasta in a thermos, they like it but say that they need more than one item to eat πŸ˜‰ Kielbasa, blueberries, my favorite crackers and a common accompaniment some carrots or peppers and hummus, give them enough to choose from.

As a sweet treat on the road or to bring with my son to a birthday party, I use Ziploc round screw top containers to carry a cupcake. I try to make a batch regularly and keep them in the freezer to pull out when needed, but in a pinch Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both carry delicious gluten-free cupcakes.

What are your favorite on the go lunches and sweet treats?

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup and my favorite soups from 2016

Soup is warm and comforting especially on crazy cold, rainy/snowy and windy days like we seem to be having here south of Boston. Coming in from shoveling, walking the dog or just your hectic day, having a bowl of soup is a great way to slow your day down and unwind for even 5 minutes, while you enjoy it.

Here is a great recipe for one of my favorite soups which happens to also be naturally vegan and gluten-free.

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

Ingredients

Β½ of a large sweet onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 6 cups)

2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger

3 cups vegetable OR chicken stock

13.5 oz can coconut milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cook onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat, until tender. Pour into your crock pot and put the crock pot on high. Add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, ginger and stock. Cook on high for about 4 hours. Once all the potatoes are tender, puree the soup, either with an immersion blender or allowing to cool and then carefully pour into your blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Add the coconut milk, salt and pepper. Cook for another 30 minutes in crock pot and then serve.

Here are my other favorite soups from 2016:

Butternut Squash Soup

Potato Leek Soup

Hot and Sour Soup to Warm your Soul

Chicken Noodle Soup

Any of these would be a great addition to your New Years feast! I am making French Onion soup πŸ™‚ Recipe will follow in 2017!

 

 

 

Snacks and School lunches…Creating endless possibilities

It is difficult for many of us to keep the snacks and lunches we send off to school interesting. Whether or not you have food allergies in your family, more and more are dealing with allergy free classrooms and as in our family, celiac disease. Not only do we need to keep all these restrictions in mind but still need to keep the food tasty, easy, cost-effective and healthy. How do you keep it all organized so that you are not running to the store every night or panicking while filling in yet another form for an activity and realizing that you have to send in extra snack tomorrow?!

SNACKS

A friend shared a great idea with me, which I have attempted to implement. It puts the kids to work packing their own lunches and snacks. I have 5 shoe box sized storage bins I stock each weekend:

1. water bottles
2. juice boxes
3. snack bags, like popcorn, pretzels or veggie sticks
4. apple sauce pouches
5. yogurt pouches and cheese sticks in the refrigerator.

The kids know that they cannot take from these boxes for snacks at home, but know that they can take 1 or 2 items (depending on the size) plus a water bottle for snack. I’ve provided them with many healthy, allergy free options, Skinny Pop, being their current favorite.  The individual bags work great as a worry free snack to bring to school. I also like to make muffins on Friday afternoons or when we have time at some point over the weekend. I always make a double batch, so that we have plenty to use for a quick snack during the week, whether it goes to school with them or as an after school snack before we start homework.

As this is the beginning of fall, I had to try out a pumpkin muffin recipe. I used the basic muffin recipe from The New York Times Cookbook and adapted it to be gluten free. They were eaten so fast, I couldn’t even get a picture!


Pumpkin Muffins (adapted from the New York Times Cookbook, Craig Claiborne)
Ingredients
2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup or King Arthur’s multipurpose gf flour)
5 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom 
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of milk
1/4 pound of melted butter
3/4 cup of canned pumpkin

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices.
Mix the eggs, vanilla, milk, butter and pumpkin.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix together completely.
Spoon into 12 well-greased muffin tins, or line with cupcake liners. Fill cups about 2/3 full.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. 
LUNCH
Lunch, I am still working on organizing, but the kids can add the snacks above to their main lunch easily. I have found that breaking lunch up into multiple pieces makes it less daunting. I created 2 lists: main lunch possibilities and snack possibilities. I mix up the main lunch options throughout the week, adding 1 to 3 of the snack options depending on how big the main lunch is. 

There are so many possibilities, that if you are anything like me, you won’t be able to make a decision unless your lists are in front of you! Our rotation includes leftovers (anything from meatballs to quesadillas to grilled chicken), lunch meat roll ups, antipasto (cut up salami, cheese, olives and tomatoes) or hard boiled eggs. These are all items that are easily made or found allergen-free, taking the stress off of your planning whether or not you have a child with allergies.

You don’t have to have a fancy bento box or lunch container with many dividers. Use paper cupcake liners or reusable silicone ones (though my kids have thrown a couple of those out, so I refrain from using them) and a square Tupperware container and you are good to go! I like the Sistema snap lid containers in different sizes or the Rubbermaid Lunch Blocks. Although I usually send my kids with cold food, if your kids prefer hot, get a thermos and while you are getting ready in the morning, fill it with hot water.  Pour the water out and add your heated leftovers and it will stay warm until lunch time.
These meatballs can be served warm or cold with lunch:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs



Ingredients
2 lbs cooked meatballs 
1 cup of your favorite GF barbecue
1 cup of apricot jam
Directions
Place all ingredients in crockpot.
Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.
With a little organization it can be less stressful to have allergy-free, gluten-free good food for snacks and lunch. If you have something you would like to create or adapt to fit your gluten-free needs, let me know! I’m always up for a cooking challenge.

Back to reality, work and school…

I finally feel like I am coming out of the storm that was in my head after my son’s celiac diagnosis. I have my cooking groove back. We even made a trip out to the midwest and hosted friends at our house without any incident. I feel more grounded, more myself. I grilled pizza for the first time in a long time! One gluten free and one not. No cross contamination! Yay! Now I just need to figure out who to make my own gluten free pizza dough and how to make my gluten filled pizza dough without feeling like I have to scrub down the entire kitchen so no flour cross contaminates anything! We also met with my son’s nutritionist at Children’s, who made me feel good, like we are on the right track. Woo hoo! Let’s just hope his blood tests in the fall come back showing that the diet is working! Fingers crossed.

Anyway, back to the food! End of summer and early fall still leaves plenty of time to grill. I love to grill pizza, sausages, steak, chicken, pork, salmon, shrimp, corn, green beans, zucchini and I could keep going. To make our grill gluten free, I scrubbed it down and then turned all the burners on and let everything just cook off for about 30 minutes. When I grill something with gluten, like pizza, I usually cover that section of the grill with foil and go through the heating process before the next time I grill. I’m probably going a little overboard, but better safe than sorry!

I’m starting to see my favorite fall foods in the grocery stores…butternut squash, acorn squash, I can’t wait! That however means its also back to school and for me back to work! My kids will all be in school full day so that means three lunches to make, everyday. I have to also send a snack for my 1st grader and donate bulk for the class for the twins and make sure Paul has a selection of gluten free snacks at school. My entire Friday was basically spent at 2 different grocery stores and I still didn’t get everything! Luckily the 2nd store (Big Y) has a Kid’s club, where the kids are happy to play the Wii while I shop, but of course make the sitter buzz me while I’m in the middle of checking out because they have to the go the bathroom πŸ™‚

Here is what my menu plan looks like for back to school week, starting with tomorrow, Tuesday (the first day of school!):

Tuesday

Breakfast – oatmeal and fruit (if I find the energy tomorrow I will make THIS one in the crock pot over night, if not it is Chex gluten free oatmeal packets. (Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often grown and/or processed with wheat, so you have to make sure it is gluten free if you need that).

Lunch – Leftover asian noodles (used rice noodles and gf soy sauce with leftover grilled chicken for dinner on Monday night),  hummus with carrots and fruit

Dinner – Grilled cheese and french onion soup in the crock pot. I have adapted the recipe linked from my earlier blog post and just throw everything in the crockpot (substitute white balsamic for the beer) for 6-8 hours on low.

Snacks – yogurt, grapes

Wednesday

Breakfast – hard boiled eggs with fruit

Lunch – ham and cheese or sun butter (hopefully the kids like it! I have never used it before) and jelly sandwiches with fruit. (I use Udi’s bread for Paul)

Dinner – pancakes [King Arthur Flour’s GF pancake mix or Bisquik’s GF pancake mix are the best I’ve found so far, until I make my own blend :)] and sausage with fruit

Snacks – cheese and crackers, bananas

Thursday

Breakfast – cereal and fruit

Lunch – turkey and cream cheese roll ups, celery, sunbutter and craisin  “ants on a log” and pretzels

Dinner – Pasta with meatballs (going to try ronzoni gluten free) and the meatballs are Mama Mancini’s Gluten Free from the fridge section in Shaw’s. I add some fresh ricotta and basil. Yum.

Snacks – yogurt, plums

Friday

Breakfast – Toast with peanut butter and honey and fruit

Lunch – ham and cheese or sunbutter and jelly sandwiches with fruit OR Leftovers

Dinner – Pizza (I usually use Udi’s GF crust for the kids and whole foods or trader joe’s pizza dough for Tim and I) served with salad  or carrots and hummus and fruit.

Snacks – celery, cream cheese and craisin “ants on a snow covered log”, pirates booty

Coming up…if the cold weather starts to set in, chili with zucchini cheddar corn bread and my butternut squash soup! all in the crock pot πŸ™‚ Stay tuned! I’m writing down my ingredients now so will actually have measurements for recipes!

Good luck with the new school year everyone! You can always ask Mamma if you need any new ideas or have a question about what to make! Just email me at mammascooking@gmail.com.